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Pickleball is one of the fastest growing sports In the country and for good reason. Pickleball is fun, easy to play, accessible to almost anyone, and you only need a pickleball paddle, balls and some friends to play. So absolutely - you should get started with Pickleball and here is how to do it.
Pickleball is first and foremost, a social sport that is fun for all ages and is best played as doubles, though singles is also fun. So before you take the steps towards buying any equipment, make sure you know where to go to find a game. Courts are everywhere now, both indoors and out, and finding a game is rarely more than a click or phone call away.
Assuming you have some form of court shoe, ideally one for tennis, the most important item in your pickleball arsenal is your paddle. Pickleball paddles range in price from around $50 to about $150, with most being in the $80 to $100 range. If you plan to play regularly, you should plan to pay a little more. Like most things in life, and pickleball is no exception, improved playability often comes with a cost.
Once you know your basic budget, then there are 3 basic considerations to make:
Pickleball paddles range in weight from 6oz to 9oz, with most being in the 7.0oz to 7.75oz range. You want to consider your strength and endurance and if you have any elbow and shoulder problems when contemplating the weight of your paddle. Consider starting out with a paddle of moderate weight (around 7.5 oz) to avoid potential problems for your arm, or your game. Lighter paddles will help with endurance and will allow you to generate more speed in your swing. Heavier paddles have more control and can help generate power, but you’ll get tired with it quicker.
The most popular core for pickleball paddles is a polymer honeycomb core. Simply, its high-quality plastic in a multi-celled honeycomb shape that give the paddle a combination of both good power and control, while also being lightweight. Most players prefer the polymer core because it can be used for both the power strokes at the start of a point and then it transitions well into the finesse game at the net, or the “kitchen”, where most of the point will be played.
The other two cores are Nomex and Aluminum cores. Nomex, a fire-resistant material used in construction and airplane design, is very similar to strong cardboard. Nomex paddles are very powerful and are also the loudest of all the cores resounding a noticeable “twok” when a ball is struck. Nomex is not as strong at the net as its control and finesse is questionable, but if you want to add power to your game, it’s the best core by far.
On the other end of the spectrum, Aluminum Cores are all about finesse. Great for dink shots at the net, they suck the power out of the ball making them a difficult choice for players that need the extra boost from the baseline, but great for players that excel at the net. An Aluminum core is probably not a beginner’s paddle, but if you know you hit with maybe too much power, it might be a good choice for you.
The surface materials available for paddles moderate between graphite and fiberglass. Graphite paddles, in general, are better for the power game with their inflexible sturdy surface. Fiberglass can provide more feel and elasticity in your paddle.
The most noticeable aspect of all pickleball paddles are the differences in length. Limited to a length of 17inches, pickleball paddles cannot exceed 24 inches combined length and width (For example, a 17 inch long paddle must be no more than 7 inches wide). Most pickleball paddles adopt the square shape, providing a wide sweet spot for shots that often hit off center. The longer paddles, which are preferred by singles players for their extra reach, extend the sweet spot and provide greater reach which can be nice at the net, but sacrifices the more forgiving sweet spot of a wider paddle.
Once you have your paddle – then it's all about the balls – and the decision here is more about location than preferences. Simply, there are indoor balls and outdoor balls, the differences being in the texture on the outside of the ball and how it interacts with the surface of the court. Different companies add slightly different texture and pop to the ball, but you need to try them out to see what you prefer on the court. Outdoor balls are characterized by having fewer holes then the indoor balls.
Once you have your paddle and a few balls to keep you going, grab your court shoes and find a game!